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    2019 World Travel Awards

    From My Fab Fifties Life

    And the Winner Is…

    If you’ve been following My Fab Fifties Life for awhile you will remember our 2017 World Travel Awards  and our 2018 World Travel Awards from previous Januarys.  I definitely feel with all of our travels in 2019 (covering 40,000 miles and 12 countries) we are well positioned to once again deliver our World Travel Awards 2019 on many people, places and travel experiences that have touched us this past year.  Just like the Oscar movie awards, we have seen a world of real life drama, fantasy, comedy, mystery, nature and animation.  Enough to last a lifetime. This annual blog is one of our favorites to write and one we always create together. And in past years it has also been one of our best read – so we really hope you enjoy it once again.

    This is a long blog. But I believe it offers some valuable travel insight to the world. I hope you will find it informative and entertaining. Please enjoy our third annual World Travel Awards, Best and Worst of 2019 – My Fab Fifties Life.

    Cenang Beach Langkawi

    For reference – our 2019 countries visited were; Costa Rica, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, USA, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Oman and Kenya. Due to our efforts for much slower travel, this is half as many countries as 2018.

    DESTINATIONS

    12 Countries

    Favorite Overall Country – Guatemala with honorable mention to Myanmar (title photo above, Lake Atitlan Guatemala)

    You’ll find a clear pattern through out the awards this year with Guatemala winning several awards. It is just a very unique and special country, with few tourists, fantastic food, gorgeous scenery, amazing history and quiet and hard working people. And it’s cheap.

    This all can be said for Myanmar as well. We hope to return to both of these countries in the future.

    Aantigua Guateamala
    Semana Santa, Antigua Guatemala

    Favorite City – Antigua

    Well there it is again – Guatemala. Antigua is a remarkable city of ancient history in the shadow of a live volcano and for us visiting the weekend of Semana Santa gave us the most unique and incredible experience we could ever hope for.

    Most Beautiful City – Shanghai China

    Shanghai China
    Shanghai China

    Shanghai is the antithesis to Beijing – brand new, sparkling clean, stunningly beautiful (especially at night), easy to maneuver and very pedestrian friendly, Shangahi was our favorite beautiful city of the year.

    Cutest Town – Big Fork Montana USA

    We spent four months in the USA this year, getting out to visit some new places and some old favorites. Big Fork Montana was a new addition to our travels and it is just so quintisential America; cowboys, artists, wildlife and good food too. We hope to visit again.

    Big Fork Montana
    Big Fork Montana USA

    Most Expensive Country – Oman and the USA

    Oman and the USA tie for most expensive, although neither was outrageously expensive and should not deter anyone from visiting.

    Oman
    Oman

    Least Expensive Country – Malaysia

    Malaysia doesn’t feel poor like some African countries, but the cost of visiting there is dirt cheap. One of the least expensive destinations per day we have visited and we enjoyed all four of the Malaysian areas we visited.

    Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

    Most Disappointing City – Mandalay Myanmar

    Although Myanmar lands at the top of our list this year for many things, the city of Mandalay was a disappointment and I would skip it when recommending a Myanmar tour.

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    15 Airbnbs, 19 hotels, 1 boat

    Best Airbnb Overall – Mal Pais Costa Rica. We spent two weeks with our friends Randy and Sue in this gorgeous beach front Airbnb on the southwest coast of Costa Rica far from the crowds. We were well cared for by an onsite staff person, we witnessed the most incredible wildlife right in our own front yard, and had the most perfect nightly sunset show I’ve seen anywhere in the world. See it here.

    Mal Pais Costa Rica
    MalPais on the beach, Costa Rica

    Best Airbnb for Service – Diani Beach Kenya. Our lovely little cottage in Diani Beach Kenya came with daily maid service (she even washed the dishes), laundry service (a tiny additional cost), wonderful onsite owners who helped with tours and questions. We spent Christmas with these people and enjoyed having them around us for the holidays. See it here.

    Diani Beach Kenya
    Diani Beach Kenya

    Best Airbnb for Authenticity –Antigua Guatemala

    Our one-room loft with small kitchen in a historic Antigua home included an outdoor patio that overlooked the traditional inner courtyard as well as the ACTIVE volcano which at night we could see shooting lava into the sky. Wow. Unforgettable. See it here.

    Antigua Guatemala
    Antigua Guatemala

    Least Expensive Airbnb – Diani Beach Kenya (see above for Best Service Airbnb) at $65 a night. We spent three weeks in a darling cottage with pool. It was an incredible value for everything we got and we felt right at home.

    Most Unique Airbnb – Lake Atitlan Guatemala. Hands down one of the most beautiful yet also somewhat strange accommodations I have ever stayed in. We lived for 8 days in a cave basically, with the kitchen, living area and deck built in and around the boulders of the cave, a bathroom one level below in another cave and the bedroom, another level below that. Unforgettable. It was 270 steps to access the cave house from the road below. But oh what a view. See it here.

    Lake Atitlan Guatemala
    Cave House Lake Atitlan Guatemala

    Favorite Hotel – Inle Lake Myanmar, The Myanmar Treasure Resort. Far and away above any other hotel we stayed in this year, the beauty and uniqueness of the Myanmar Treasure Resort had us giddy with joy during our two week stay in our over-the-water bungalow. And the staff and service was impeccable. See it here.

    Inle Lake Myanmar
    Myanmar Treasure Resort, Inle Lake

    Worst Hotel – Crooked Tree Resort Belize. I’ve tried to block the one horrible night we spent in this dirty and rodent infested house with broken furniture and mold, from my mind. We were supposed to be there for four nights. We packed up at first light and disappeared.

    FOOD

    Favorite Country Cuisine – Guatemala

    Healthy use of local and fresh vegetables and beans with just enough protein I fell hard for the unique spices and flavors of the Guatemalan people’s cuisine.

    Cuisine of Guatemala
    Vegetarian meal in Guatemala

    Best Meal – Myanmar Treasure Resort offered a wonderful menu of local specialties and the local “Butterfish” was my favorite meal of 2019.

    Butterfish from Inle Lake Myanmar

    Best Cooking Class – Antigua Guatemala and Hopkins Belize. We couldn’t decide between these wonderful experiences. In Antigua I had a private class at La Tortilla Cooking School from a Mayan woman with an English interpreter. We made at lease 8 dishes and all were spectacular. In Hopkins my entire family enjoyed an afternoon with Garifuna Chef Gloria where we learned so much about the local Garifuna traditions, local produce and fish and gorged ourselves on the delicious cuisine.

    Cooking Class in Belize
    Cooking in Belize with Chef Gloria

    Best Beer – USA all the way on this one, particularly since we didn’t spend any time in Europe, the beer of the USA is hands down the best.

    Best Coffee Guatemala. There is Guatemala again (I bet you really want to go there now dontcha?). I loved the coffee in Guatemala where they produce the best from the America’s – a deep rich and almost chocolaty brew. Kenya rivals it with their mountain grown beans that are often touted as the best in the world. For me though I preferred the dark beans of Guatemala over the lighter somewhat fruity Kenyan roasts. Both however got the job done and the smell was heaven on earth.

    Guatemalan Coffee
    Guatemalan Coffee

    Best Food Experience/Tour – Taipei and Kuala Lumpur Two of the all-time best food tours we have ever taken happened this year, the first in Taipei Taiwan with Taipei Eats and the second in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia with Food Tour Malaysia . For both these tours the food was beyond abundant but it was the guides who really made sure our experience was remarkable and unique.

    Food Tour Kuala Lumpur
    Arne on our food tour in Kuala Lumpur

    CULTURAL AND NATURAL EXPERIENCES

    Best Sunset – Mal Pais Costa Rica. For fourteen glorious nights in a row we sat on a log on the beach, gin and tonic in hand, and watched the show…a fiery blend of orange, pink and purple as each day in Mal Pais came to an end. It was truly remarkable.

    Mal Pais Costa Rica
    Sunset Mal Pais Costa Rica

    Most Authentic Cultural Experience – Muscat Oman dining with a local family. We were lucky to stumble onto the Website of Zayr, a local organization who brings visitors together with local Omani’s. Our experience dining in the home of a lovely local family included delicious food, but more importantly wonderful conversation and cultural exchange. We enjoyed it immensely. Shukran to our new friends.

    Cultural exchange Oman
    Dining and cultural experience in Muscat Oman

    Best Beach – It’s a tie!  Cenang Beach Lankawi Malaysia and the greater Diani Beach area of Kenya both deserve the gold statue this year. Diani’s baby powder fine white sand and turquoise blue water is one of the reasons it shows up so often on lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But Langkawi’s Cenang Beach, is a clean, long expansive golden beach with incredibly warm waters all with easy access and lots of restaurants and services to make your beach visit comfortable. We loved them both.

    Diani Beach Kenya
    Galu Beach – Diani Beach Kenya

    Best Tour – Inle Lake Myanmar. Our favorite one-day tour was our all day tour in a local boat seeing all of the beautiful and historic sights around Inle Lake. It was truly unforgettable.

    Inle Lake Myanmar
    Traditional Fisherman, Inle Lake Myanmar

    Best Driver – Alehandro in Guatemala was our favorite driver who was not only a safe and exceptional driver, but was a great tour guide, passionate about his country and understanding when I was dealing with severe motion sickness. We became friends. If you need a driver in Guatemala let me know and I can get you in touch with him.

    Antigua Guatemala
    Our friend Alehandro at Semana Santa Antigua Guatemala

    Best Tour Company – China Connections China we don’t use many tour operators, but for our time in China we were taken great care of by several operators and guides secured for us by China Connections, who also booked and organized our Yangtze River Cruise. Everything done without a hitch.

    China

    Best Bucket List Historic Site – Bagan Myanmar. I had read so much about Bagan and the unique and ancient temples there but I still was not prepared for it’s ancient religious beauty and the reverent and dedicated Buddhists who come to this place.

    Bagan Myanmar
    Monks in Bagan

    Best Natural Site –  Glacier National Park, Montana USA. For wildlife spotting in the United States you can’t beat big and beautiful Montana and our visit to Glacier National Park did not disappoint. A top site in the USA you should not miss.

    Glacier National Park Montana
    Big Horn Sheep, Glacier National Park Montana USA

    Best Waterfall –  Mayan King Waterfall Belize. When our two adult sons visited us in Belize this waterfall was one of the unexpected and fun things we did just outside of Hopkins Belize.

    Hopkins Belize
    Mayan King Waterfall Belize

    Best Manmade Site – Tikal Guatemala. When I first started researching visiting Guatemala it was because I had heard so much about this remarkable Mayan site. And it was very remarkable. And we were surprised by all of Guatemala but the fascinating Mayan history here was the cherry on the sundae.

    Tikal Guatemala
    Mayan Ruins of Tikal, Guatemala

    Best Mosque– Muscat Oman, Honorable Mention Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is one of the most beautiful if not the most beautiful (better than the Blue Mosque in Turkey even??) I have ever seen. Only a few years old the tiles, hand-knoted carpet and astonishing chandeliers are phenomenal. Our honorable mention goes to the Wilayah Mosque in Kuala Lumpur for the incredible customer service provided visitors there. Where we had a private tour for free and an opportunity to watch the mid-day prayers.

    Muscat Oman
    The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat Oman

    Best Day Hike – Wadi Shab Oman. After not being able to do this on our first try because of a big flood and mudslide the day before, we are so glad we returned a few days later to try again. I think most people would be pretty surprised at the rugged yet beautiful terrain of Oman, and it makes for exceptionally challenging and beautiful hiking.

    Wadi Shab Oman
    Wadi Shab Oman

    Best Multi-Day Hike – Hiking from Inle Lake to Kalaw. This two day hike was longer and harder than I thought it would be (I should read the fine print) but the experience was amazing. Our guide was great, the food was surprisingly abundant and delicious and even sleeping on the floor in the home of a local Myanmar family with no electricity or running water was a memorable experience.

    Kalaw Myanmar
    Hiking across the rice fields Myanmar

    Most Unique Outdoor Experience – Learning to Goeduck Even though I was born and raised in Goeduck country, I had my first experience this year in Gig Harbor Washington USA.

    Key Peninsula Washington
    Goeyduck Hunter

    Expensive but Worth it – Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride over Bagan Myanmar $700. Ridiculously expensive. Once in a lifetime memorable.

    Bagan Myanmar
    High above the temples of Bagan

    Best Wildlife Experience  Orangutan watching in Borneo Malaysia with Honorable Mention to seeing sloths and toucans in Costa Rica. We love it when we can see wildlife in its natural habitat.  Our time in Borneo was all and more than I ever could have dreamed of seeing up close and personal the endangered orangutans as well as proboscis monkeys. In Costa Rica a lifetime goal of seeing sloths in the wild was fulfilled.

    Borneo
    Sharing a walk way with a wild orangutan, Borneo Malaysia

    Most Moving Experience – Journey for Purpose Kayak Trip Belize. If you have a chance, you should do this experience. It was such a wonderful way to stop and appreciate my own self-worth, while getting to know and rejoice together with a group of women I had never met before. The kayaking was hard but the scenery was beautiful with weather that challenged us. And such wonderful memories were made with these women as we held each other up when a family tragedy back home for one women gave us a unique opportunity to show our female nurturing strength and come together as one. I will never forget it. This trip happens annually, learn more here.

    Kayak in Belize
    Journey for Purpose Belize

    Best Performance Marionette Show Mandalay Myanmar. Although Mandalay was not my favorite place, the best thing we did there was attend the Myanmar Puppet Theater and enjoyed exceptionally talented puppeteers who have kept this Myanmar art form alive. Who knew marionettes’ could be so lifelike?

    Myanmar Marrionettes
    Myanmar Marrionettes

    Least English Spoken – Guatemala wins again. Although we were always able to find people who spoke English when necessary, a large portion of the Mayan population in Guatemala who are older than a teenager do not speak any English. English has only been taught in the schools for the past ten years.

    WEATHER

    Hottest Day: Diani Beach Kenya 91 degrees F and 77 degree dew point.  We swooned.

    Coldest Day: Port Orchard Washington USA. During our time in the USA we had a couple of very chilly and wet weeks in June that kept us decidedly indoors

    Cold and wet with my son in Washington

    Wettest Day: Waking up in Placencia Belize to water all over the floor of our Airbnb and sewer bubbling up out of the holding tank after a torrential downpour all night long.

    EXERCISE

    Best YogaBalance Yoga Retreat El Tunco El Salvador. I enjoyed a lot of great yoga around the world this past year with memorable moments in Kota Kinabalu Malaysia (where I did sound healing for the first time) and in La Fortuna Costa Rica, and Punta Cana Dominican Republic but my favorite of possibly all time was the ten days I enjoyed yoga both morning and evening at Balance Yoga Retreat in the tiny paradise of El Tunco El Salvador. Who would have thought?

    Yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life
    Balance Yoga Retreat

    Best Place to Run Cenang Beach Langkawi. Getting up early before the heat of the day and running on the safe, flat and fabulous ring road and along the beach boardwalk of the small town of Cenang Beach gave us an entire month to really get back in running shape.

    TRAVEL

    28 flights, 1 train ride, 2 small boat rides, one river cruise

    Smallest Airport – Punta Gorda Belize. I am not joking when I say the terminal was a shack about 10’x10′.

    Punta Gorda Belize
    Arriving in Punta Gorda

    Worst Flight Experience – Getting sever motion sickness on a tiny plane from Florez to Guatemala City and then needing to do a three hour drive on winding roads to our final destination of Antigua.

    Airport Most in Need of Upgrade – Heho Airport outside of Inle Lake Myanmar. It’s actually pretty busy, but very rundown. The check-in counter looked like something used as a ticket booth at a carnival.

    Best Airport – Muscat Oman was shiny and new and very comfortable.

    Worst Day of Travel – We had to spend one night in Nairobi before flying on to Mombassa where we would go by car for the 40km trip to Diani Beach. We didn’t know that due to a ferry, that 40km trip usually took 4 hours and on the day we were doing it took 6 and half because of high traffic from the Kenyan holiday of Jamhuri the day before. Not sure how we missed that information in all of our research but it made for a very long and exhausting travel day indeed.

    AND FINALLY

    Just Because It’s Unusual CategoryDental Work in San Jose Costa Rica. I didn’t have a category to fit this in but I needed to mention it because it was quit unusual. But I had a wonderful experience at Meza Dental having an extraction and implant done for a third of the cost of doing this in the USA. A year later it is perfectly healed and I would do it again in a heart beat.

    Dental work in Costa Rica
    Implant in Costa Rica

    Sad But True CategoryPhotographer Death in Belize While our sons came to visit us in Belize we did some family photos of all of us on the beach with a female photographer I found online. She did a wonderful job and she was creative and nice. We received all the photos via email about a week later. Tragically just a few days after that, she died of a stroke. Rest in peace Marian.

    Family portrait in Belize
    Family Portraits in Belize

    So there you have it.  The winner of the Fab Fifties version of the Oscars for 2019.  What a great year full of incredible experiences around the world.  We are the luckiest people on the planet. Who needs a little gold statue when you have a Fab Fifties Life?

    What a fabulous life it is. WATCH OUT! 27 countries planned for 2020!

    Please comment and share.  We appreciate your love.



    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Bear Town by Fredrik Backman

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I wanted to love this book.

    I wanted to love it because EVERYONE else seems to love it.

    I wanted to love it because I LOVED A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry also by Fredrik Backman.

    But, I just didn’t love it and I can’t really put my finger on why.

    Bear Town is the story of a small town, a dying small town like so many small towns. But a small town with a big dream.

    Bear Town is also a story of how athletes are often given a free pass in situations where the rest of us are not. How the goal of winning can create tunnel-vision and for some people lose sight of morality and truth.

    Bear Town is a story of different families and how raising our children to be honest and good is the most important thing in the world.

    Bear Town is depressing but also courageous – taking the reader through a violent event that tears a town apart but ultimately shows who has the courage to tell the truth.

    Perhaps it was just too real for me. I’ve seen behavior like this first hand. Perhaps your experience reading Bear Town will be less visceral.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️Three stars for Bear Town by Fredrik Backman. Read last week’s review of The Lowland

    Everything Else Fabulous

    I Am Sixty Hear Me Roar

    Happy Birthday To Me

    I am Sixty Years young. Before I launch this birthday blog let me answer once and for all the question you all are asking; Nope. No I am not changing the name of the blog. It will remain My Fab Fifties Life.

    So Happy Birthday to me. I am Sixty hear me roar. Sixty years young. I feel strong and invincible. I may have been more fit at fifty physically, but emotionally I have never felt better. Bring it on sixty. You don’t scare me. I am sixty, hear me roar.

    It’s funny how sixty used to seem so old. I remember my Mom turning sixty…we had a big party because, well, it was monumental…she was old! I think about my grandmother when I was a small child. My memory of her was she was OLD. But the reality is, she probably wasn’t even sixty yet.

    No party for me. It’s just another year. A monumental year I am sharing with lots of people…of course all of my high school friends making the leap too as well as Magic Johnson, Emma Thompson, Marie Osmond. Also joining the club Allison Janney, John McEnroe, Fabio and Danny Bonaduce. Yep, we all are getting older – if we are lucky.

    And luck has an awful lot to do with it. Those dear to us who drew the short straw and found cancer visit them and take them too soon. Or a plethora of other causes that take so many before they reach this remarkable year. Sixty years young.

    Hard to answer questions to a travel nomad

    Living every day fully, that’s my mantra. We never know do we? Nor do we want to…I don’t anyway. I want to go out with a bang no matter what year and so I will get out of bed on Tuesday (my actual birthday) and I will rejoice that I can. I will roar. I will celebrate. I will be fabulous.

    Because seventy is knocking…the decades fly by. My children are adults, my marriage has endured nearly four decades, and I am here. I am sixty hear me roar.

    Go. Be. Fabulous.

    As a birthday gift to me, please sign up to follow our blog by clicking here.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

    Reading Wednesday

    This book was written six years ago. My husband said he was sure I had read it, but I started it anyway after finding a paperback in a hotel in Yangon.

    I had not read it, but I am sure glad I did. It’s a remarkable story and I enjoyed it very much.

    The Lowland is a sad but fascinating story of an Indian family that takes the reader over four decades and three generations from The Lowland of Calcutta to Rhode Island.

    Lahiri is a beautiful storyteller with a instinctive ability to portray both the intimate and far-reaching implications of decisions made, customs and beliefs held dear, and family ties.

    Bengali brothers Sabhash and his brother Udayan are so close in age growing up they are nearly inseperable despite their very different personalities. Sabhash the eldest is more conventional with a scientific mind. He wants to be a scientist and heads to America for his college studies. Udayan, always the braver of the two, is distracted, dissatisfied and a rebel.

    Udayan’s ideologies find him involved in the Indian Naxalite insurgency and he is executed in front of his parents and wife.

    Subhash returns to India to find his parents beyond consoling. Subhash takes Udayan’s wife and the unborn daughter she carries and returns to the USA to raise the child as his own.

    The scope of this story is fascinating as it explores family and tradition, parental expectation and truth, martyrdom and secrets and the immigrant experience in the United States. It’s also educational and eye-popping if you are unfamiliar with the brutality and suppression of peasants in India.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. Read last week’s review of I Am, I Am, I Am.

    Africa Travel

    Dilemma and Delight in Diani Beach Kenya

    Location: Diani Beach Kenya

    Diani Beach Kenya – It’s been a year since the deadly Nairobi hotel terrorism attack that took 21 lives. Kenya has had its share of terrorism over the past decade, mostly attributed to Al Shabab, an African Islamic group associated with Al Qaeda.

    Diani Beach Kenya
    Diani Beach at sunrise

    During this same year 40000 people died in the United States from gun-related violence.

    I share this comparison not to advocate against guns but to make a point; media accounts of violence around the world create a fear of faraway places, even while violence at home is often just as severe.

    It’s a dilemma to decide how to travel safely around the globe. And though we take our personal safety seriously, we do not believe we are in any more danger in Kenya, with its history of terrorist hits, than in the USA, with its history of domestic and international terrorism as well as rampant gun violence.

    Sheldrick Falls Kenya
    Sheldrick Falls

    And so we came to Kenya – specifically Diani Beach Kenya.

    Diani Beach Kenya is both a dilemma and a delight. This beautiful coastal town on the Indian Ocean has seen its own share of violence including murder and bombings.

    Camels on the Beach Kenya
    Diani Beach from The Edge Restaurant

    The larger image of Kenya as a violent place over the past decade has been disastrous for the tourism industry, especially in Diani. Like other places we have visited (Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Central America), war, coups, violent crimes and terrorism – and the media accounts of these- can devastate tourism overnight, and the damage takes decades to recover.

    Think about it.

    Abandoned Diani Beach hotel
    Abandoned Hotel Diani Beach

    But what of places like Paris, Las Vegas, London or Boston? All places that have had terrorism attacks over the past few years but visitors still flock there. Why do we feel safer from terrorism in a “western” culture?

    Abandoned Diani Beach Park
    Entrance to abandoned amusement park

    Diani Beach Kenya, touted as the most beautiful beach in Africa, deserves a chance to rebuild its tourism program. Within the 17 mile stretch of white sandy beach sit several abandoned hotels, bars and even an amusement park – places unable to hold on when the tourists stopped coming.

    Abandoned swimming pool Kenya
    Abandoned hotel pool, Diani Beach

    Today, and particularly during the holiday season when we were visiting, tourism is on an uptick. Europeans from Germany, Scandinavia and Britain were abundant on the beach, in restaurants and bars and in the shopping areas.

    Abandoned Diani Beach Bar
    Abandoned beach bar “40 Thieves”

    Convincing Americans to travel here will take more time, and hopefully there will be no more attacks. Meanwhile we feel safe and happy to have enjoyed this beautiful, affordable and incredibly friendly place.

    We want the best for the Kenyan people and our new friends in Diani Beach. Hardworking people who for the most part want jobs to support their families and have a good life. Tourism is the vehicle for that and they want it to thrive once again.

    The Sands at Nomad Restaurant
    Dinner at the beautiful Sands at Nomad

    So here are some recommendations from our three weeks in Diani, for you to consider when planning your Kenyan adventure.

    Where to stay – Frangipani Cottages – very affordable, beautiful pool and 700 meters to the beach.

    Frangipani Cottages Diani Beach
    We loved our three weeks at Frangipani Cottages


    Our favorite bars and restaurants – Tiki Bar, Havana Bar, The Edge, Nomad Bar and Restaurant, Kokkos, Java House, Oasis Bar, Salty Squid, Piri Piri.

    Favorite Activities – Shimba Hills and Sheldrick Waterfall Hike, Wasini Snorkel trip, Swahili Cooking Class.

    Traditional Dhow boat Diani Beach
    Boat to Wasini Snorkle

    There are MANY other activities in and around Diani that we did not do such as multi-day safari, Colobus Monkey Reserve, slave caves and fishing. Learn more here.

    Next stop for us the island of Mauritius out in the Indian Ocean! Don’t miss our ANNUAL WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS 2019 blog coming on January 17th.

    Thanks for your support this past year. Please share our blog. Happy New Year!

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

    Reading Wednesday

    From time to time I have moments that catch my breath when I think of a few near death experiences I have had in my life. The four moments that occasionally remind me of how lucky I am to still be kicking around. Three of these occurred in a car and one on a horse – inches and seconds from disaster.

    In her memoir I Am, I Am, I Am, O’Farrell looks back on her own life where she can count 17 separate incidents of stepping too close to her own death. Several instances the reader can easily relate to, while others seem unfathomable to most of us.

    But the part of the book that caught me somewhat off guard was the story of O’Farrell’s adult life struggle to keep her own daughter alive. A day to day process that involves constant monitoring of every item her daughter eats, breaths, touches…as O’Farrell and her family deal with a child with severe immune-system disorder.

    This is the first time I have read O’Farrell’s work although she has numerous memoirs and novels. I enjoyed this story dispite it’s sometimes gut-wrenching detail.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. Read last week’s review of Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.

    Inspire

    Making Sense Of It All

    A New Year of Travel

    Location: Around the World

    Why do we travel? I get many, many questions about our travel life, everything from how do I make coffee in my French Press to how do we afford a life of travel? Some people find it hard – making sense of it all – my travel life.

    But the questions I like the best are when someone asks me to describe the way a place smells? Or what are the sounds I hear when alone sipping coffee in the morning? I love it when someone is astute enough or interested enough to ask a meaningful question like how does travel make me feel? What are the sensory elements of travel? How does a handshake feel from a Masai warrior, a Mayan weaver or a Chinese fisherman?

    Door knocker in Oman

    Because as we tumble into 2020 and our fourth year of travel these are the moments that linger for me. I am long past being impressed by tourism kitsch, fancy restaurants or hotels and shopping deals. Travel is now about the senses and mine are more alive than at any time before in my life.

    A Sense of Adventure

    Adventure is a key part of our travel life. In fact we are much more adventurous in our fifties and sixties than we ever were in our twenties or thirties. Living a life with a sense of adventure creates remarkable moments – moments that are often difficult to describe – but are part of this person I have become through travel. This reality of being someone different than who I was before is part of our grand adventure, a part I never planned or expected and yet, here it is. And it makes sense.

    Sailing in Seattle

    A Sense of Space

    No one is more surprised than myself about how I have become a minimalist. Learning that I can, quit easily, live with very little has created a sense in me of openness. A sense of space. And I like that space. It feels good. It feels healthy. I feel lighter and more free. I don’t want to fill that space with anything more than moments. For now that is what makes sense.

    Balloons over Bagan Myanmar

    A Sense of Time

    Starting 2020 I also make the transition into my Fabulous Sixties (more about this in a couple of weeks). And this monumental birthday brings with it a lot of feelings, most significantly the feeling of waning time. I am accepting of the fact that there is a lot more territory in my rearview mirror than in my windshield ahead. As I have mourned several dear friends these past few months my sense of time has been sharpened. Each individual approaches this sense of time differently, but for me and my husband filling our lives with a travel life of memorable moments brings us joy and a sense of happiness. This makes sense to us.

    Arabic clock Tunisia

    Common Sense

    You might think that travel and the frequent stress it can create would make me high-strung and irritable. But it’s actually the opposite. Travel has instilled in me more common sense than I have ever possessed before. Learning to navigate the world while loving the experience and just going with the flow is a learned skill – one you cannot do without common sense. Serving as a self-appointed ambassador for my home country – showing a big and beautiful world that Americans can be nice, thoughtful, tolerant and understanding has provided me a greater sense of being…and a well rounded repertoire of common sense. Nothing could make more sense.

    Bridge in Hanoi Vietnam

    A Sixth Sense

    Maturity more than travel is what I credit for my own awareness. A sort of sixth sense has developed in me as I have aged. I’ve learned to read my own intuition and act on it, rather than regret it later. I’ve learned awareness of my surroundings, and my place in it, and my impact on it. I have tried to be a better steward for our planet, a better representative for my generation and a better American towards other cultures. In my own little way, I am here. This is how I make sense of it all.

    Temple in Hua Hin Thailand

    Forward

    So here we go again. We look forward to another travel year. Our travels in 2020 will take us from Armenia to Zimbabwe. From oceans to mountaintops. From jungles to cities. From beaches to glaciers. It’s all there. Waiting to fulfill us and our thirst for sensing how the world turns and what makes it’s people tick. A full and fabulous experience. A Fabulous Fifties Life.

    Taj Mahal India

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    Happy New Year to all!